Strawberry sabotage ‘did happen’, man claims in court

A MAN accused of making a false report to police during the nationwide strawberry sabotage crisis has left court insisting he has committed no crime and "it did happen".

Paul Benjamin Wright, 34, of Paradise faced the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

He has yet to plead to one count of making a false report and falsely claiming goods had been contaminated.

If convicted, he faces a maximum jail term of 15 years.

 

Paul Benjamin Wright outside the Magistrates Court in Adelaide. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP
Paul Benjamin Wright outside the Magistrates Court in Adelaide. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP

 

It is alleged that, on September 17, he contacted SA Police claiming his daughter had bitten into a strawberry, contaminated with a needle, a week earlier.

It is further alleged Wright claimed the strawberry had been purchased from a Woolsworths at Gilles Plains.

Following a police investigation, Wright was arrested and charged.

The incident came amid nationwide concern about contaminated fruit following the discovery of sewing needles in strawberries and bananas around the country.

Thousands of punnets were recalled, fruit was destroyed and politicians called for Australians to rally behind growers and support the embattled industry.

On Wednesday, SA Police told the court they would allege Wright intended to cause harm to Woolworths through his actions.

They allege that he wanted to influence the public not to purchase goods from the store, or "create apprehension that others would be influenced".

They said they would prove their case using Wright's receipt from Woolworths, CCTV from the store, and his record of interview following his arrest.

Wright asked the court to adjourn his case.

"I've spoken to a lawyer but they're not available today," he said.

"My lawyer has asked me to plead not guilty and to ask you (the court) for a pre-trial conference."

Magistrate David McLeod did not formally record Wright's not guilty plea, but remanded him on continuing bail to face the Elizabeth's Magistrates Court next month.

Outside court, Wright told reporters the charges were baseless and insisted "it did happen".

Asked what he had told police during his interview, he replied "the truth".



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